Poland’s second largest city was the royal capital for a long time. Wawel Castle stands here on a high hill above the Vistula. For more than five centuries, Polish kings ruled the country from here. Even when the capital moved to Warsaw, the monarchs came to Krakow for the coronation procedure.
One of the most famous kings is Jagailo, the grandson of the Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania. He married the Polish princess Jadwiga, and thanks to this marriage he united Poland and Lithuania into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the way, this state included a large part of modern Ukraine. At that time, Yagaila’s half-brother Volodymyr Olhertovych, who recognized his relative as king in 1388, ruled in Kyiv.
It was thanks to Jahajla and Queen Jadwiza that the University of Krakow began to flourish. Jadwiga’s father, not having an heir, dreamed of strengthening the state through dynastic marriages of his three daughters. Jadwiga was betrothed to the Austrian Prince Wilhelm from childhood. But terrible intrigues were brewing behind the back of the young princess, and Jadwiga was given to Jagaila when she was only 12 years old. Jadwiga was in despair: she loved Wilhelm, and the old man was 36 years old (!) and the terrible savage Jagailo scared her. But her priest convinced her that she was destined to carry the light of Christianity to the whole country.
Jadwiga lived only 25 years, but before her death she bequeathed all her jewels to the construction of Krakow University. In general, the university was founded back in 1364, under the previous king Casimir. But financial and bureaucratic obstacles prevented construction. Jagailo fulfilled his wife’s last will, and in 1400 the university started working – in honor of the prince, it was named Jagiellonian, although giving it the name of Jadwiga would be fairer.
Why is this important? But because there were no universities in Vilna and Kenisberg yet, and even more so the Academy in Kyiv. Only in Kraków could the local nobles get an education. In honor of Jagail, he ordered the construction of a house for poor students from Lithuania and Russia – thus, in 1409, the first student dormitory appeared in Krakow. Graduates of the Jagiellonian University became professors at the universities of neighboring countries and cities – Vilnius, Warsaw, Poznań.
At first, education was conducted in Latin, because Latin was the language of science for more than a thousand years. But the invention of printing changed the situation. Soon, books appeared not only in Latin, but also in other languages, including Polish. The University in Krakow also switched to the native language.
So, not without interruptions, but for more than six hundred years, the University of Krakow has served as a repository of knowledge in this region. Among the famous graduates of the Jagiellonian University are the scientist and Polish hero Nicholas Copernicus, the Roman Pope John Paul II – born Karol Wojtyla, the science fiction writer Stanislav Lem, the director Krzysztof Zanussi and even Ukrainian writer Vasyl Stefanyk.
The university occupies an entire block in the Old Town of Krakow. The oldest building now houses the university museum. As knowledge grew older, the ancients migrated there books and prints. Currently, you can get there with an excursion.
In addition to visiting the museum, the Jagiellonian University opens its doors to prospective applicants annually at the end of winter. Prospective students can walk through the departments, learn about the admission requirements, and then take a walk in the professor’s yard. This is a small but elegant park, laid out in the house of the former faculty of botany.
Currently, the university has fifteen faculties of various fields. At them, you can get the most modern specialties and an international diploma. By the way, they willingly hire foreigners, in particular from Ukraine.